Can Douching Cause a Vaginal Yeast Infection?

The short and quick answer is yes it can do. However in this article we will look at what a yeast infection is to better understand how and why does douching cause a vaginal yeast infection, what is meant by douching, and when if ever is it okay to use douching to clean the vaginal area.

What is a yeast infection?
A yeast infection is caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. This fungus resides on mammals including many humans, but is kept at low levels usually by the good bacteria also there. If allowed to grow over those acceptable levels a yeast infection can be the result. Areas that are damp, warm and dark are particularly susceptible such as the vagina. Common symptoms women may suffer are itching, burning when urinating, redness, irritation, inflammation, pain when having intercourse because you are too dry, a white lumpy discharge.

What is douching?
The word ‘douche’ is French for wash or soak. Douching is the act of squirting water or cleansing products in and up the vagina (birth canal) to clean it. Women can make their own douche solutions or there are prepacked solutions that can be bought. It is a practice that is now very much not recommended by doctors for several reasons. First of all the vagina is self cleaning, your body already has a way of cleaning the vagina itself, all you need to do is wash there when you bath or shower with a cloth. Secondly douching disrupts the balance in the vagina and can cause infections.

If douching does cause a vaginal yeast infection why do women do it?
Women mistakenly believe they are cleaner if they douche. Some women do so after sex hoping to prevent pregnancy, some believe it will prevent STDs, some do so during their menstruation each month and some do not believe their vagina should have an odor and so douche to to prevent odors. It is a very common practice unfortunately, in America alone between 20% to 40% of women aged 15 to 44 douche regularly, for many of them this means weekly at least.

Douching does not get rid of a bad smell, it will just hide it for a few days and then it will return probably worse than before. If you have a bad smell you need to see your doctor as it may be a symptom of a vaginal infection. Douching will not prevent a pregnancy (in fact it helps the sperm by pushing it up) and nor will it prevent any STD.

How does douching cause a vaginal yeast infection?
An overgrowth of the fungus can occur for a number of reasons and douching is one of them. In the vagina there is a balance of organisms, healthy bacteria and other flora, including a small amount of yeast. The good bacteria and the acidity of the vagina when it is healthy keeps the fungus numbers low so that an infection does not occur. Douching disrupts this balance and can kill the bacteria. It can lead to inflammation and the imbalance can provide the opportunity the fungus needs to multiply leading to a vaginal yeast infection. There are no health benefits to douching but there are unwanted results such as infection. Also it is possible the act of douching can just spread the infection internally into the woman’s uterus, Fallopian tubes, and ovaries.

Now I know douching does cause a vaginal yeast infection what other dangers are there?
There is evidence from research that women who douche suffer from more health issues with their vagina than women who do not. These health issues include irritation, bacterial vaginosis, STDs and pelvic inflammatory disease. These can also have an affect on a pregnancy as they can cause problems for the baby, premature birth, labor problems. Though the research is limited there has also been a suggestion that women who douche regularly are actually going to find it more difficult to get pregnant. It also can make it more likely for an eptopic pregnancy to occur, where the fertilized egg attaches to the Fallopian tube instead of the uterus. This can be a life threatening condition for a woman if it is not dealt with, and can then make it harder to get pregnant in the future.

Douching does cause a vaginal yeast infection – so how should the vagina be cleaned?
Let the vaginal canal take care of itself – it makes a mucous that cleans itself. It will clean away any discharge, blood or semen with this mucous. Also remember a healthy vagina may have a slight musky odor, this is natural. All you need to do is clean the outside of the vagina using water and possibly a mild unscented soap. Do not use scented products like tampons, pads, sprays or powders as these can cause irritation and lead to an infection.

When is it okay to douche?
There are rare circumstances where your doctor may suggest you douche for a limited time only. Follow their instructions carefully and only do it for the time they specify.

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